Monday’s game against the Padres pitted the Cubs against old friend Edwin Jackson, and his outing felt familiar to Cubs fans who watched those dreadful 2013 and 2014 seasons. Predictably, the red-hot Addison Russell hit a home run, University of San Diego product Kris Bryant hit a home run, and Jason Heyward hit a home run – wait, Jason Heyward hit a home run?
The dingers supported a strong outing from Jon Lester, who continued his excellent season by throwing six-plus innings of one-run ball, and the Cubs rebounded from Sunday’s loss with a 5-1 win over San Diego.
Top Play (WPA): With one out in the second inning, Russell launched a line drive home run to left field on a 1-1 slider (+0.121). It was slightly more meaningful than his two dingers in Sunday’s laughable loss. The 22-year-old is slashing .300/.380/.583 in August, and as Daren Willman points out, he’s really connecting the last few days:
With a sacrifice fly in the next inning, he became the third shortstop in franchise history to accumulate 80 RBIs in a season and the first since Ernie Banks, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. Russell’s defensive ability has been obvious since he was called up last year, but seeing him realize more of his potential at the plate has been a real treat this season. (Not to be outdone, his glove showed up big time in the eighth with a jaw-dropping diving play on a ball Wil Myers smoked up the middle.)
Bottom Play (WPA): After Dexter Fowler did his job by drawing a leadoff walk in the first inning, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate with one out. The first baseman hit a well-struck ball down the first base line, only to see a perfectly shifted Luis Sardinas scoop it up to turn the inning-ending double play (-0.48). The Cubs recovered easily, going on to score in three of the next four innings.
Key Moment: Lester seemed to be cruising through an efficient outing when he hit trouble in the seventh, giving up back-to-back singles to open the frame. Joe Maddon brought in Justin Grimm to clean up the mess. His effort got kick-started with a spectacular play by Javy Baez, who made an off-balance scoop and throw to retire Patrick Kivlehan on a sharp grounder (+0.012).
Grimm yielded a run on a dropped third strike/wild pitch to Ryan Schimpf, but struck out Sardinas (+0.044) and Brett Wallace (+0.027) on five pitches each to end the threat and keep the Padres at arm’s length and helped spare a tired bullpen.
Trend to Watch: Many weekend hot takes were born out of Maddon’s decision to give the offensively struggling Heyward the weekend off at notorious hitter’s park Coors Field before putting him back into the lineup at spacious Petco Park. Heyward’s first two at-bats Monday were frustrating and familiar – a groundout to first base and inning-ending strikeout – but his fifth-inning at-bat resulted in a three-run home run that just eluded the glove of the leaping right fielder Kivlehan.
It wasn’t exactly a moonshot, but it was Heyward’s first homer since July 29. If nothing else, it’s the sign of life Cubs fans have been desperately seeking. (Alas, Heyward then made his first error as a Cub, misplaying a single into a three-bagger. Weird game, baseball.)
Elsewhere, the fleet-footed Padres tested Lester’s willingness to throw to the bases. They were largely successful, going 3-for-5 on the night, but there was a moral victory hidden in there. Myers walked with one out in the bottom of the fourth with his team trailing by two, stole second, and then was caught in a rundown after a Lester pickoff throw got him between second and third (+0.070). On top of erasing a runner in a tight ballgame, it was a relief to see Lester complete an uneventful throw to a base.
Coming Next: Jake Arrieta (2.75 ERA, 92 cFIP, 3.68 DRA) will take the mound Tuesday, looking to regain his command after an uncharacteristic seven-walk outing against Milwaukee on Thursday. He’ll match up against Chicago-area native Christian Friedrich (4.69 ERA, 113 cFIP, 5.46 DRA), who is coming off a two-run, 6 2/3 inning outing against the Rays. Make sure you load up on coffee: It’ll be another 9:05 p.m. CT first pitch on CSN, with the radio broadcast on 670 AM.
Lead photo courtesy Jake Roth—USA Today Sports.